Monday, November 28, 2016

Still Some Red Tide, But Plenty Of Redfish Around Pine Island

Yes, we're still getting over the lingering red tide that killed a lot of bait (and quite a few gamefish,) in Charlotte Harbor and along our Gulf beaches.  This has been going on for over two weeks now and is finally dissipating enough that I'm hearing of good catches off the north part of Pine Island.  I've spent the entire time south of the Matlacha Bridge where the algae bloom never reached and had no problem putting my anglers on fish each morning.  Getting them to eat was another story, of course. 

This morning I had a very rare day on the bow of a skiff with a rod in my hand thanks to my buddy Tyler.  As expected, it was too windy to fly fish so the spinning gear came out instead.  That never bothers me, especially when the reds are extra spooky.  Whipping a fly line back and forth over their heads is never a good thing but a well placed live shrimp is hard to refuse.  That's what fooled the one in this photo, a perfect 24 incher that was in a small school hugging the mangroves near McArdle Island.  He'll be turned into ceviche tomorrow afternoon and there are still a few hundred more out there just like him. 

Be careful with the low tides this week, the water is much skinnier than the charts are reporting thanks to the wind.  But if you've got the right boat, kayak, or paddleboard, reds like this should be easy to spot along the south Matlacha Pass shorelines. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pine Island Fly Fishing Club Meeting On 11/28

The monthly Pine Island Fly Fishing Club meeting will happen on Monday, Nov. 28th at the Matlacha Community Park Civic Center at 6:30 PM.  Parking is free and we only ask a $3 donation to cover the cost of renting the hall.  This is always a great time with lots of local info and a chance to meet up with other SW Florida anglers.  Hope to see you there. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Winter Pompano Are Here Early

The best tasting fish on the flats of Pine Island is also one of the best fighting for their size, especially on the fly. Pompano are a common catch over the deeper grass flats right now, especially for the folks dropping shrimp-tipped jigs on the bottom. Yes, you'll have to put up with a few too many catfish using this technique but a nice legal size pomp is more than worth it.

Sight fishing for them with a fly rod, like my buddy Phil did in the photo, is a lot harder. Obviously, you'll need some clear and shallow water to do this. The sand bars running along the east wall of Charlotte harbor are already a good place to find them. Schooling pompano are fast movers and often travel with mullet. They can even look the same so as a rule I have my anglers cast to every dark shape I see running across the sand that isn't an obvious catfish. Stingrays are also a magnet for pompano (as well as a lot of other gamefish) since they constantly spook crabs and shrimp out from under their wings as the float across the bottom. Fish will cling right to their backs and pounce on anything that moves. If you see a large ray, drop your fly on it and start stripping immediately. Pompano prefer crab and shrimp patterns but I've had them hit Clouser Minnows and even tarpon flies.

Last year these fish were all over the Charlotte Harbor sand bars just before Christmas but they seem to be here a month early. Our recent, and quickly fading, red tide didn't seem to affect the pompano and I didn't see any dead ones floating anywhere. The water is beautifully clear in the Harbor right now and just keep getting brighter. Get up there and give these guys a shot.

Friday, November 18, 2016

New Beavertail Skiffs At The Ft. Myers Boat Show

Stop by the Ft. Myers Boat today through Sunday and you can check out hundreds of different boats from kayaks to million dollar yachts.  Two of the newest Beavertail skiffs will be there, a Vengeance and Mosquito, will also be on display and offered for sale at a special show weekend price.  You can also meet Capt. Blair Wiggins from the Addictive Fishing TV show at the Beavertail booth on Saturday from 10 to 6.  This is always a great show and the weather is fantastic this weekend.  Hope to see you there. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Overslot Fish From Pine Island Sound

I had one of my long time anglers on the bow throwing the fly today and he didn't disappoint.  Clem landed a 28" red and a 24" trout on the same shrimp pattern with his 8-wt.  That trout was the largest one I've ever had anybody bring in with a fly rod.  Conditions weren't easy to do this.  When the tide was perfect this morning it was too windy for tailing fish.  Once the wind dropped off in the afternoon there was too much water for sight casting.  The only thing we missed was the snook and Clem got a decent one late yesterday so that sort of counts as a Slam.  Hey, it's my boat and I make the rules. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fishing Cuba

Beavertail Micro on the Cuban Flats.  Photo by Alex Suescun.
This month's issue of Saltwater Sportsman magazine features a great article about fishing the famous Zapata flats with Enridan Outfitters in Cuba.  I met the managers of this lodge last month at the Beavertail Skiffs tournament and they were great people who were really excited about their waters and introducing it to the fly fishing public.  Click here to read up on this spot and stay tuned for details about a possible hosted trip next year. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November On Pine Island

From this month's Coastal Angler Magazine:
November means one thing to me as a fishing guide in SW Florida: negative low tides. Seeing that little minus symbol on the tide charts when the lows happen just after sunrise and just before sunset is almost as good as finding presents under the tree on Christmas morning. These are some of the best conditions to chase tailing redfish and for die hard skinny water anglers this is as good as it gets.  

My favorite times to hit these ultra-shallow flats are about an hour before the bottom of the tide and then the first two hours of the rising water. This is when I usually find the redfish feeding most aggressively because their prey, which is mostly crabs and shrimp, is easily pinned to the bottom. This is also when you’ll find reds sticking their tails straight up into the air and waving them like signal flags. It’s easily one of the coolest things you’ll ever see out on the flats.  

One other thing to look for out there are cruising stingrays. The bigger rays attract fish like a magnet on certain flats in Pine Island sound and I’ve seen more than a dozen reds hanging on their backs waiting for a crab to flush from underneath. This is also a common behavior for other species of gamefish so it’s not a bad idea to toss a lure or fly at any passing ray. Some of the biggest trout and jacks I’ve ever seen have been landed this way. The rays are easy creatures to spot on the negative low tides, too. Just look for the large pushes of water or even their wingtips poking above the surface. 

In a previous article I wrote about the best way to go after low tide reds with flies, which is basically to bonk them right on the head with light spoon patterns. That tactic obviously won’t work if you’re throwing heavier artificials with spinning gear. One lure I’ve had great success with that doesn’t spook them as easily are Gulp Jerk Shads rigged on weedless swim bait hooks. These can be dropped right in a school of feeding reds and usually get pounced on immediately. With 10 pound braid you can throw these light Gulps very accurately over a surprisingly long distance. And Gulps really are the one artificial that actually does work better than live bait (most of the time.)  

The one last thing to know about working schools of fish on a falling tide is to obviously approach them with caution, and I don’t just mean that in order to avoid spooking them. The water during a negative low can disappear quickly and for a long time, especially on a windy day after a cold front. It’s very easy to get shoved up onto a flat or pole your way into an area while you’re chasing tailers and suddenly have no way back out, even in a very light skiff. This would be a really miserable experience if it happened at sunset and close to the mangroves where the bugs live. Keep in mind that the numbers you see on a tide chart are predictions and nothing more than that. While usually quite accurate, the depths and times of posted tides can vary significantly, especially when strong weather happens. Keep that in mind when you’re fishing around negative lows this month and you’ll keep yourself out of trouble.